Intro: Most of the people in our country hardly know that there is an illustrated version of the Constitution, beautifully written in calligraphy with portraits from Ramayana, Mahabharata and other historic events.
India is celebrating its 66th Republic Day on 26th January 2015. It is different and special for many reasons this time. The country has a new regime led by Narendra Modi who is the new Prime Minister. In the last Lok Sabha election, his party, Bharatiya Janata Party, was voted to power with a full majority. No party had earned such a majority in Loksabha in the last 30 years. With full majority to back him, Modi has many promises to keep and many new goals to achieve.
The first and foremost task is to establish ‘good governance’ by eliminating inefficiency, red-tapism and rampant corruption in the administration. Besides developing the economy and banishing poverty the Prime Minister has to look forward towards the revival of the sagging spirit of nationalism among people. The country is facing identity crises. The pseudo secular and anti-national elements in the country have conspired to suppress the great heritage and culture of our country. The Prime Minister will have to take steps to liberate the restrictions and constraints placed in practice of the national culture, heritage and religion. He will have to also restore the balance for the effective implementation of the Constitution which is highly biased against the majority population.
The framing of India’s Constitution had to go through much travail. The Draft Constitution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26th November 1949. The Assembly sat for 166 days. It took two years eleven months and eighteen days to finally prepare the Constitution. The constitution came into force on 26th January 1950.
Most of the people in our country hardly know that there is an illustrated version of the Constitution, beautifully written in calligraphy with portraits from Ramayana, Mahabharata and other historic events. After the Draft Constitution was signed by members, the Drafting Committee decided to have its calligraphed version. The English version was calligraphed by Prem Behari Narain Raizada of Rampur. He began work on 28th November 1949 and completed it in the last week of April 1950, within just five months.
The calligraphed sheets were decorated and illuminated by Nand Lal Bose, the well-known artist of Shantiniketan, who completed the job in four years. Illustrations were taken from Indian history beginning from Mohenjo-daro, Vedic age upto India’s freedom movement. The illumination work was done in accordance with the suggestions of Jawaharlal Nehru to have real gold spray on the margins and also to provide illumination in rectangular form all round the space in the middle of the paper for calligraphy. Nandlal Bose was paid a sum of Rs. 21,000/- for this rare feat of blending art and history together in the 221 pages. The original copy of his work was finally signed by all members of the Constituent Assembly. Parliament Secretariat (the predecessor of the present Lok Sabha Secretariat) took over the project from the Constituent Assembly on 26th January, 1950 and since then has preserved and treasured this monumental document for future generations as a symbol of our nation’s achievements. The original calligraphed copy of the Constitution is kept in a steel box in an ante-room of Parliament Library, Parliament House, New Delhi.
The list of illustrations included in the document is given below:
- Mohenjo-Daro Period – Decoration with Mohenjo-Daro seals
- Vedic Period – Scene from Vedic Ashram (Gurukul)
- Epic Period – Scene from the Ramayana (Conquest of Lanka and recovery of Sita by Shriram).
- Epic Period-Scene from Mahabharat, Shrikrishna propounding Gita to Arjuna).
- Mahajanapada and Nand Period-Scene from Buddha’s Life
- Mahajanapada and Nand Period-Scene from Mahavir’s Life
- Mouryan Period-Scene depicting the spread of Buddhism by Emperor Ashoka in India and abroad.
- Gupta Period – Scene from Gupta Art, its development in different phases.
- Gupta Period – Scene from Vikramayaditya’s court.
- n Gupta Period – Scene depicting one of the ancient universities (Nalanda).
- Medieval Period – Scene from Orissa’s Sculptures
- Medieval Period – Image of Nataraj
- Medieval Period – Scene from Mahabalipuram Sculptures (Bhagirath’s penance and the descent of Ganga)
- Muslim Period – Portrait of Akbar with Mughal Architecture
- Muslim Period – Portraits of Shivaji and Guru Govind Singh
- British Period – Portraits of Tipu Sultan and Laxmi Bai (Rise against the British Conquest)
- India’s Freedom Movement-Portrait of the Father of the Nation (Gandhiji’s Dandi March)
- India’s Freedom Movement-Bapuji the Peace Maker – his tour in the riot affected areas of Noakhali.
- Revolutionary Movement for Freedom-Netaji Subhash Chandra and other patriots trying to liberate Mother India from outside India.
- Natural Features – Scene of the Himalayas,
- Natural Features – Scene of the Desert
- Natural Features – Scene of the Ocean
After seeing these illustrations, people would want to know more about the background of making this calligraphed version. Why these illustrations were inserted in the calligraphic version? What was its purpose? Why Constitution makers like Jawaharlal Nehru and others, who believed in composite culture and overzealous concern for minority, chose these pictures? It is because the basic Document is only a compendium of various laws of governance of the state. Nowhere in this document there is any reference to the great heritage and culture of our civilization. These illustrations were perhaps chosen to reflect the cultural concerns of the Constitution makers.
Some months ago Prime Minister Narendra Modi had gone on an official visit of various countries. As a goodwill gesture, he gave copies of ‘Bhagwad Gita’ as gifts to the leaders of those countries. However, back home, the conscience keepers of secularism in the country were aghast. They criticised Prime Minister’s gesture as a great sin alleging violation of the old credo of secularism, a precious legacy of Nehru. Was it so?
What was Nehru’s legacy? What were his thoughts on Bhagwat Gita? Nehru had deep knowledge of Indian history. His book, ‘Discovery of India’ written in Ahmednagar jail, talks about the greatness of India’s ancient (Hindu) cultural heritage and civilisation.
Nehru writes, “The message of the Gita is not sectarian or addressed to any particular school of thought. It is universal in its approach for everyone. It is because of this universality that it has found favour with all classes and schools. There is something in
it which seems to be capable of being constantly renewed, which does not become out of date with the
passing of time.”
People may want to know more about India’s heritage. It is the responsibility of the Government now to provide information to them, and an urgent need to reprint the calligraphed version of India’s Constitution. The Government should reprint it at the earliest and bring out a cheap paper-back volume for the benefit of younger generation. The printed copies should be sent to all libraries and educational institutions and should be made available to the public at a subsidised price. Left to be seen is, will the Government accept our suggestion?
Madhu Deolekar (The writer is a Senior columnist & Ex-MLC Maharashtra)